Alternative Break Projects

HRWC Alternative BreaksHRWC has been sponsoring alternative break projects in partnership with various colleges and universities across the eastern US since 2009. An alternative break is a trip where college students, instead of relaxing on a beach somewhere during their seasonal break from classes, pay to actively engage in a service project, typically for a week-long period. Each trip has a focus – in our case water quality and improving streamside habitat – and immersion in the issue begins long before the trip itself. Students educate themselves and each other, then do hands-on work with our restoration program.

In a typical year, we host 3-5 alternative breaks. The students work at restoration project sites across the 4-county area, eradicating nonnative invasive plants, installing live stakes of native vegetation and/or planting native trees and shrubs. They also pick up litter and help with minor erosion control projects when the timing of projects allows. Local volunteers provide lunches on each workday and the organization provides a bonfire social on one evening each week. During spring, we call this time “March Madness – Watershed-Style.”

So far in 2019, 24 volunteers from three universities in two states have donated a total of 657 hours to the HRWC restoration program and its partners including the River Walk in Murphy, the Quannassee Trail in Hayesville, the Union County Farmers Market in Blairsville, and the new Mayor’s Park in Hiawassee. This time has a value of $15,860, much of which was used as match to our restoration program grants!

Scheduling An Alternative Break Trip

HRWC does not charge a site fee for hosting Alternative Break groups; however, a fully refundable deposit is required in order for new groups to reserve Alternative Break dates. Also, each group must independently arrange and pay for its own accommodations. Groups that have worked with HRWC in the past have stayed at Hinton Rural Life Center on Lake Chatuge. Special pricing is available in the off-season for our Alternative Break groups. HRWC requires a minimum of eight participants per group for an alternative break project. Contact program coordinator, Tony Ward to inquire about scheduling an Alternative Break trip with HRWC!

Participating Colleges & Universities

We are grateful to groups of students from 14 colleges and universities in eight states who have helped maintain our streamside areas to sustain good water quality and keep our stream restoration projects functioning!

View the Alternative Break Yearbook (group photos)

Michigan State University, MI (2009-2012)
University of Missouri, MO –“Mizzou” (2011-2012 & 2019)
Eastern Michigan University, MI (2011 & 2017-2019)
University of South Carolina, SC (2011)
Northwestern University, IL (2012-2013)
Radford University, VA (2014)
University of North Florida, FL (2014-2015)
Bowling Green State University, OH (2014-2017)
Grand Valley State University, MI (2015-2019)
Saginaw Valley State University, MI (2015-2017)
University of Michigan Rotaract Club, MI (2017)
University of Tampa, FL (2017)
Emory & Henry College, VA (2017)
Davidson College, NC (2018)